The Doctrine of the Ministry in the Writings of Ernst Heinrich Klotsche

Since the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments are absolutely essential for the existence of the church, a ministry of the Gospel is necessary. Therefore, the church must appoint and ordain suitable persons to this office ([Concordia Triglotta,] 497). “The Church has the command to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us, because we know that God approves this ministry, and is present in the ministry [that God will preach and work through men and those who have been chosen by men]” (311). “Wherever the Church is, there is authority to administer the Gospel. Therefore it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect and ordain ministers” (523). The office of the Christian ministry, therefore, rests upon a divine institution (A.C., Art. V). “The ministry of the Word has God’s command and glorious promises” (311). The office of the ministry is not:to sacrifice for the people, and merit the remission of sins for others” (ib.); nor to rule over the church; “Peter, 1 Pet. 5:3, forbids bishops to be lords and to rule over the churches” (95); “the Church is above the ministers” (507) – by “Church” is, of course, not meant the individual local congregation, but the congregation of all believers –; nor to make, introduce and impose human laws, ceremonies and traditions as useful and necessary to salvation (87; 445); nor to interfere with civil government or assume authority over the state. The office of the Gospel ministry is only to preach the Gospel and to administer the sacraments (A.C., Art. V; 85). This includes the power of jurisdiction consisting in the use of the keys, to remit and retain sins (85). “According to the Gospel, or..., by divine right, there belongs to the bishops as bishops, that is, to those to whom has been committed the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no jurisdiction except to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of the Church wicked men, whose wickedness is known, and this without human force, simply by the Word. Herein the congregations of necessity and by divine right must obey them, according to Luke 10:16: ‘He that heareth you heareth Me’” (87). “The bishop has the power of the order, i.e., the ministry of the Word and Sacraments; he has also the power of jurisdiction, i.e., the authority to excommunicate those guilty of open crimes and again to absolve them if they are converted and seek absolution” (447). ... Christian ministers also have the power to exclude manifest and obstinate sinners from the Lord’s table and other communion of the church until they amend their lives and avoid sin. ... To the church itself, and to no class in the church, is given the peculiar power and authority to preach the Gospel, remit and retain sins, and administer the sacraments. “This authority is a gift which in reality is given to the Church, which no human authority can wrest from the Church. ... The keys have been given to the Church, and not merely to certain persons, Matt. 18:20: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name’ etc.” (523). Since the office of the keys has been given principally and immediately to the church, it follows that the church itself calls and ordains those who shall exercise this ministry for it and that “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called” – nisi rite vocatus – (A.C., Art. XIV; also 497; 511). Not ordination but the call in due form and order decides one’s claim as a Christian minister. Ordination is the public recognition and solemn confirmation of the call to the ministry by the church; it is therefore not a sacrament in the strict sense of the word (311). The Lutheran Confessions insist upon the rite vocatus for the sake of good order. In case of a necessity, however, as in the absence of a regularly called minister, “even a layman absolves, and becomes the minister and pastor of another,” for he is part of the true Church which has the authority to administer the Gospel (525). The ministry, then, is an office, ministerium ecclesiasticum, and not a divinely privileged rank or order of men according to which the bishops of today are the direct successors of the apostles (apostolic succession). There is parity of all ministers of the Gospel. “By the confession of all, even of the adversaries, it is clear that this power by divine right is common to all who preside over churches, whether they are called pastors, or elders, or bishops. And accordingly Jerome openly teaches in the apostolic letters that all who preside over churches are both bishops and elders, and cites from Titus 1:5 f.: ‘For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest ordain elders in every city’ [and afterwards calls these persons bishops]” (521); “by divine authority the grades of bishop and pastor are not diverse” (523). According to the needs and circumstances there are diversities of ministration, but all distinctions of rank among the ministers of the Gospel are of human origin, “it is by human authority that the grades of bishop and elder or pastor are distinct. ...the power [the office and command] is the same” (ib.). (Christian Symbolics [Des Moines, Iowa: Lutheran Literary Board, 1929], pp. 181-83)

According to Luther the true church is the communion of believers, “the living body of Christ.” Its outward marks are the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments in accordance with the gospel of Christ. To the communion of believers and to no external organized church are entrusted the Word and the sacraments. ... According to the Lutheran view the church is the communion of believers where the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are administered in accord with Christ’s institution. The task of the church, therefore, is to see to it that the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. According to the Reformed view the church is the instituted visible church, under the care and government of which we are preserved “till we are divested of this mortal flesh and become like angels” ([John Calvin’s Institutes, IV, 1,] 4). The task of the church, therefore, is to see to it that there be the right kind of church organization and church government and that church discipline be properly exercised. ... Calvin was convinced that the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments necessitated the divine appointment of definite ecclesiastical offices. The extraordinary offices of apostles, prophets and evangelists, Calvin maintains, “were appointed to continue for a time in the government of the church.” The ordinary offices of pastors, teachers, elders and deacons were instituted to be of perpetual duration (ib. 3, 5). ... All these officers are not only to preach, govern, and care for the poor, but above all to exercise Christian discipline. The people are to choose, but the ministers chosen are to rule. ... Holiness, which is an attribute of the communion of the saints, i.e., the invisible church, is required by Calvin of the visible, instituted church. Church discipline is to bring it on. Therefore Calvin does not, like Luther, see the exercise of the power of the keys in the proclamation of the gospel but in church discipline. ... The cold, legalistic character of Calvin’s Reformation left its imprint upon the Reformed churches. ...a marked nomism characterized both the church of Rome and Calvin’s theocracy. The difference between Rome and Geneva was this, that there [in Rome] the infallible teaching office of the church dictated and enforced the rules which were to regulate the conduct of life; here [in Geneva] it was a false Biblicism, i.e., strictest adherence to the letter of the Bible as the supreme law of the sovereign God, which led Calvin to conform all acts and forms of life to the words of the Bible. Because the apostles appointed ministers, teachers, presbyters and deacons, it is therefore necessary [according to Calvin] that the church everywhere and at all times must do the same. (Christian Symbolics, pp. 228-32)

The Quaker denomination is not the only one which permits women publicly to teach in the church. This unscriptural practice is found in many Protestant churches today. In order to understand the Biblical command, “Let your women keep silence in the churches” [1 Cor. 14:35], we must clearly distinguish between God’s kingdom as the one congregation of all believers and that same kingdom of God in its outward organization as a visible congregation with its external ordinances and local arrangement. In the one congregation of all believers there is no distinction of age or sex, of color or nationality. The only mark of distinction is faith in Christ Jesus. It is of this kingdom of God that the apostle says: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28). In this kingdom all alike according to their power and possibilities are to be laborers in the Lord’s vineyard, and thus we find many Bible passages where honorable mention is made of the devotion and work of women. In this kingdom “all believers are priests unto God.” But while all believers are each other’s equals in their inward relation as children of God, they are not all each other’s equals in their outward relation as members of the visible organized congregation. Children under age are not on an equal footing with their parents in the management of the church’s work and finances and plans. Nor do the members of the congregation have equal rights with the minister in the public administration of the means of grace. The power and authority to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments is indeed given to the church itself and to no class in the church, but in order that according to the divine command everything shall be done decently and in order the church itself designates those who shall exercise this ministry for it, and only those who are properly called have the right publicly to teach in the church and administer the sacraments. And the church that follows Christ’s example and obeys his word, commits those public functions to men and not to women. Scripture plainly says that it is not permitted unto women publicly to teach in the church, 1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-15. (Christian Symbolics, pp. 293-94)

The Catholic Church claims to have “weighty reasons” for enforcing the celibacy of the clergy. The state of virginity or celibacy is declared to be better and holier than that of marriage (Sess. Tr. XXIV, c. 10). “The offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass demands the greatest purity in the priest, who is the representative of Christ; while his ministrations to the faithful are such that they can be properly discharged only by those whose hearts are free from earthly ties” (W[alther, Lehrbuch der Symbolik,] 369). The Romanists quote Paul as regarding a single life as in itself better and holier. But the apostle recommends celibacy only (1) by reason of the present distress, 1 Cor. 7:26, and (2) in case the individual possesses the same gift for it, i.e., continence which the apostle had, v. 7. The Tridentine Fathers (ib. c. 9) simply asserted that God gives that gift to those who ask for it rightly and that he does not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able. On the one hand, it is claimed that celibacy of the priesthood dates from the apostolic times; on the other hand, it is admitted that the discipline of the church, on this point, has not always been precisely what it is at present; “but because it is discipline, therefore may it be changed, as, in the alteration of times and circumstances, it has seemed, or shall seem, good to our ecclesiastical rulers” (The Faith of Catholics, vol. III, 226). (Christian Symbolics, p. 120)

The period of orthodoxy is often spoken of as that of “dead orthodoxy” and [the] dogmatic Lutheranism of the seventeenth century has been branded as a caricature of evangelical Christianity. This criticism ignores altogether the great achievements of orthodoxy. It also is blind to the fact that in the period of “dead orthodoxy” there is to be noticed in the German church more true piety and spiritual life than in the period of Pietism which most decried the dead formalism of Lutheran orthodoxy. Whatever may be said as to the charge raised by Pietism against [the] dogmatic Lutheranism of the period, the fact remains and cannot be gainsaid that, the position held by the old Lutheran theologians was in strict conformity with the fundamental principles of the Church of the Reformation. ... In opposition to formalism, both in doctrine and life, there arose about the middle of the seventeenth century everywhere, in Catholic and Protestant communions, mystic pietistic movements which laid stress upon Christianity as the renewal of the heart and life of man. ... In the Lutheran Church in Germany we find it in the Pietism of [Philip Jacob] Spener and [August Hermann] Francke which arose in opposition to the then prevalent orthodoxy. ... Although the Pietists did not form a new church, their conception of the church tended toward separatism. According to the orthodox the objective means of grace constitute the basis and foundation of the church. They beget, nourish and foster believers. According to the Pietists the true believers and their faith constitute, preserve and renew the church; hence their practice of fostering little associations of “truly awakened,” ecclesiolae in ecclesia, which cut themselves off from the “great masses” and thus weakened the power and significance of church organization. The orthodox held that the power and efficacy of the means of grace depend solely upon God’s appointment and promise, and not on the worthiness of the administrant. The Pietists maintained that the saving effect of the means of grace resides in the person of the preacher and his faith, and that Word and sacraments have no saving power, if administered by an unconverted person. Therefore the Pietists insisted that no one is qualified to teach theology unless he is a model of piety, thus exalting a pious life and active Christianity above learning and intellect or subscription to creeds. ... Pietism as a distinct movement had run its course by the middle of the eighteenth century, but as an influence it has come down to the present day. (The History of Christian Doctrine [Des Moines, Iowa: Lutheran Literary Board, 1945], pp. 279, 281-82, 284-85)

One of the first and most influential representatives of the New Orthodoxy [of the nineteenth century] was Claus Harms (1778-1855), high consistorial councillor at Kiel. ... Being convinced that the church had left the faith of the Reformation, he published on the occasion of the three hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, 1817, together with Luther’s ninety-five theses, ninety-five theses of his own against rationalism and the attempted union between the Lutheran and Reformed churches. ... To the same school belong the following: A. F. C. Vilmar (1800-68), most prominent Hessian theologian of the nineteenth century; Wilhelm Loehe (1808-72), pastor at Neuendettelsau from 1837, founder of the Deaconess Home and the inner mission institutions at Neuendettelsau, and a mission school to provide pastors for German emigrants to America and Australia. As pastor and theologian Loehe fearlessly bore testimony against the rationalism of his time and against the lax position of the state church. Both Vilmar and Loehe held Romanizing views with regard to the idea of the church and the ministry. Outside the church, according to their theory, there is no salvation, but the saving power of the church does not reside so much in the Word of God as in the sacraments as a source of forces which act on man in virtue of the proper efficacy resident in the baptismal water, and in the elements offered to the communicants in the Holy Supper. Approaching more or less nearly to the episcopal theory, Vilmar and Loehe, though holding fast to the parity of ministers, make the ministry the divine self-perpetuation of the pastor’s office. Vilmar maintains that through ordination we receive powers which cannot be obtained in any other way, thus assigning ordination a high sacramental character. (The History of Christian Doctrine, pp. 323-24)

E. H. Klotsche (1875-1937) taught theology at Martin Luther Seminary in Lincoln, Nebraska; at Western Theological Seminary in Fremont, Nebraska; and at Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. All of these seminaries were affiliated with the United Lutheran Church in America.

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